Category Archives: Pre-Toddler (12-18 months)

Tearing Paper

Sounds simple, huh?  I was surprised this wasn’t as easy for J as I thought.  I layed out a piece a construction paper (the color of the day was orange) and an empty tupperware. I thought this would be an activity he could do mostly on his own, but I was wrong.  I had to get the tear started.  The act of pulling each side separate directions is a motor skill I hadn’t anticipated being so difficult for him.  It probably didn’t help that J really doesn’t like creating messes (though he has his moments I guess!).  I think the most enjoyable part of this activity was moving the torn pieces in and out of the tupperware! 

Later that afternoon for “art time” we glued the pieces on some white paper to create an orange collage.  Using contact paper would’ve worked better.  I don’t quite have a good strategy for teaching glue usage yet!

16 months

Age attempted: 16 months, for J this was difficult

Teachable moments:  Motor skills, color orange, how to use glue (Don’t you all wish the lesson of the day included learning the color orange, learning to tear paper, and learning to use glue!)

Try Again?  I’ll probably wait till he’s a little older

Finger Painting

J’s first experience with true finger painting was at 16 months at a cousin’s birthday party.  My sister-in-law actually had a great idea, she taped a piece of art paper onto an outside fence.  She had them labelled, one for each child attending the party and a paper plate with finger paint set out by each outdoor easel. 

If it had not been for the party, finger painting would have waited until he was older.  Dad was supervising close by (to keep the paint on the paper and not in the mouth).  We did still end up with fingerpaint all over his nice shorts, but fortunately it did all wash out. 

16 months

**I found this picture a little funny.  It looks like my 16 month old is an artistic prodegy!!  If truth be told, Dad (hiding from the camera) got a head start on the finger painting.  J is just about to add his personal touch to Daddy’s tree.

Age attempted: 16 months

Try Again? Of course, but not until he’s older (since it is messy!)

Hunt in the Dark

This was one of the first “games” J ever played. 

I brought a flashlight, plastic cup, and 10 puff balls (or whatever you call those crafty fuzzy falls!) into his room.  I “hid” (in plain sight) the balls throughout his room, we turned out the light and used the flashlight to try and find them. As we found them, he would put them in his cup. So simple and such a winner! It took almost 20 minutes to get all the balls in his cup. He kept accidentally dropping one (or more) out of the cup while reaching for another one. He would bend down, pick up the ball (while the last one fell out of the cup), put the ball inside the cup then look down and see ANOTHER ball right there too! Or he would manage to get 5 or 6 balls in the cup, bend down to pick up the 7th, put it in his empty cup, turn around and find 6 more right there behind him.

When he finally finished, he was happy to play again and again.

My basic teaching goal going into this was to encourage him to finish what he started.  To me that’s the requirement of a “game”.  You’re given a task, told what is required to win and you play until the win/end is achieved.  True, he had no competition in this game (unless you count the sneaky cup that just kept tossing out all those balls!), but at his age the task itself is competition enough.

Age? 16 months

Try Again?  Yes; I did this again a few times.  I do think there’s a point it loses it’s luster.  But now (at 21 months) he could probably better manipulate the flashlight and find the “dark” aspect more interesting.

Sidewalk Chalk, A Helpful Parenting Tool

Mondays are designated sidewalk chalk day in our house.  I’m always sure to draw all of that weeks lessons around the driveway so that I can easily review the lessons each time we go outside during the remainder of the week.  J is also quick to point out the new lessons to me!  He gets really excited to see the letter G or the triangles when we go outside.  

I’ve also determined that sidewalk chalk is a great parenting tool.  Our drawings help keep J where I want him. For example, if I’m carrying a big load of laundry for the cleaners, I can tell J to go stand in the circle/on the plane/on the letter H and wait for me.  I found those instructions are much more clear than “stand by the car” or “stay close to mommy”.   You could draw stars or a big stop sign when teaching them where they cannot cross without holding a parent’s hand or at least having their attention.  Of course sidewalk chalk will disappear with time… or rain…  but the initial lesson can stick with them.  I am surprised to discover what J remembers… that the little heart used to be in this corner of the driveway or Daddy’s schoolbus drawing was on this part of the sidewalk.  Oh to have that kind of memory now!!

During the winter, we’ll often use painter’s tape on the kitchen floor, put up posters, or window stickers to review the weekly lessons.  This also helps, but sidewalk chalk is still my first choice.  It takes little effort and something about it being outside makes it special!  I think because the painter’s tape is on the kitchen floor and we’re in or around the kitchen practically all day, the novelty wears off.  The chalk pictures outside keep their novelty longer.

Homemade Toy: Egg Cartons

I started this activity with J at 13 months.  I gave him a bowl of plastic eggs and the empty egg carton and let him try to fill each space.  He loved it.  It was a great motor skills activity.  Eventually I added corks to the mix.  He would put the corks inside the eggs, take them out, put them in the empty spaces of the egg carton,…  You could use puffs or marbles instead of the corks.

Age:  J started aroun 12 or 13 months; If I made it more advanced, he would still play with this today.

Try Again?  I used this activity once a week (maybe every 2 weeks) until around 17 months.  I could now have him sort colors using the same materials to make it more challenging.

**ETA: Find more plastic egg activities here.

Whip Cream Painting

I planned an entire day of fun for J’s first birthday.  We live far from all family and knew that we wouldn’t have a big party for J, but I still wanted it to be special.  Whip Cream painting is one of the activities that he did that day.  I made some homemade whip cream, tried coloring it with blueberries and rasberries (I forgot to buy food coloring!) which worked… a little.  I stripped J down to his diaper, sat him in his highchair and put a spoonful of each color on his tray.  He was a little confused at first (this was one of the first times he was in the highchair aside from mealtime) and just slowly tested the waters with one finger.  Eventually he was had the whole tray covered, as well as his belly and his hair; he liked to fill his hand with it and then make it squish out by making a fist.  Of course he tasted it too, which in this case was perfectly ok.  It’s basically a texture activity for him, a chance for him to experiment and explore something new. 

My little guy does not normally like getting dirty, so it’s good for him to experience it every now and then!

Age: 12 months

Try Again?  I haven’t repeated this same activity again, though he would’ve enjoyed it I’m sure.  I have done other texture painting activities since this.

Tunnel Play

I guess I was slow in introducing tunnels.  My first attempt (around 10 months) was not well received, so I didn’t try again until J was 12 months.  I just set up the couch cushions to create a short tunnel and he loved it.  He liked to follow mommy through (though it was a tight fit for mommy!), play peek a boo with mom at one end and J at the other, push his cars through the tunnel, or pop his head up through the top of the tunnel.  It’s an easy activity to set up and free!

12 months

Age attempted? 10 months not successful (cautious little guy!); successful at 12 months and ever since

Try Again?  Yes; still a good activity

Homemade Toy: Family Photo Magnets

Much of our family live far away so J doesn’t get consistent interaction with them.  It is very important to me that J know his relatives and develop relationships with them as he gets older.  The first step to me was knowing who was who in his family.  At 10 months, I made some photo magnets for him to play with.  I printed pictures of each family member, put a sticky magnet on the back and then lamenated both together (so he couldn’t peel the magnet off the back).  He has loved them since the first day I put them up.  He often played with these while I cooked dinner (convenient for me since he was close by).  He quickly learned who was in each photo.  When we were plannning a visit to see certain family (or before family came to visit us), I emphasized their photos. 

Age Attempted: 10 months; this is an toy/activity he still plays with at 22 months. 

Teachable Moments:  Family members (or other important people in baby’s life)

Try Again?  This toy rests permanently on the refrigerator door, used often

Stacking cups are definitely worth it!

Stacking cups are awesome.  Even now, at 21 months, J enjoys them. 

J first learned to tear down a tower that mom/dad created.  At first he was a very careful little boy, removing one cup at a time (starting around 8 or 9 months).  I also used the cups to help teach object permanence (the idea that an object doesn’t disappear simply because we can’t see it).  I would place a small toy under one of the cups and have him find it again.  Then I added two cups, hinding the small toy underneath one of them so that he had to find which cup help the surprise.  After working up to 3 and 4 cups and he was quick to find the surprise underneath, I started hiding the surprise while stacking,…  basically any way to make the game new and interesting. 

Of course eventually he learned to stack the cups himself, nest the cups (I use both activities to emphasize size – big/small), fill cups with the matching color pompoms, fill and spill in the bathtub,…  There are so many possibilities, long lasting possibilities!

A careful demolitionist at 10 months